A Toronto City Hall wedding is something I’ve become quite familiar with over the past few years. I’ve photographed roughly 15+ weddings and elopements at Toronto City Hall in my short career as a Toronto wedding photographer, hell, in 2019 alone I’ve photographed a handful so far! I can openly admit though, that no two City Hall weddings have ever been alike. Sure, the beautiful and futuristic architecture of Toronto City Hall remains the same over that time period, but it’s never truly about that anyway, what has truly made each experience unique is the people involved in the intimate experience of eloping or getting married at City Hall. I think in order to be one of the best Toronto wedding photographers it’s key for me to be able to revisit the same places with a different outlook and perspective. Overtime I quickly realized it’s not about where people get married, but WHO is getting married, the nuances between them and the space, that is the key for me as a wedding photographer and I can thank my 5+ years of experience working as a photojournalist to acquire the patience and mind’s eye to anticipate the images I envision, but more importantly, I’ve learned how to connect with the couples I work with in order to create a catered and unique experience through the images to tell THEIR story, which the wedding venue only plays a partial role.
Dana & Marc reached out to me roughly a year before their scheduled wedding at Toronto City Hall, we grabbed a few beers along Queen West and they explained to Ryanne and I their ideas and vision for their wedding. Their enthusiasm and excitement for working with us on the wedding day really propelled my own excitement and vision for what we could create.
The bride and groom opted for a late spring City Hall Wedding, with Marc’s family and close friends travelling from Montreal for the occasion. It was nice to be around other French speaking people for a change, since moving to Toronto from Ottawa I often miss speaking French in my day to day life so that simple notion of language allowed me to bond and connect with Marc and those in attendance.
But before any of that happened, Dana and Marc opted to have a first look within the grounds of Toronto City Hall. The first look was the perfect combination of surprise and overwhelming emotion as both Marc and Dana took a moment to appreciate one another’s wedding attire before naturally embracing for what seemed like a minute suspended in the infinite. A striking moment for me as the wedding photographer was when they both took a minute to step off and to express some unrehearsed personal vows to one another. I opted to give them the space they needed to allow themselves to live in the moment and really dig deep in what was easily the most intimate and deeply emotional moment of the entire wedding day. That quiet and emotional moment between the bride and groom opened up a level of natural emotion that easily translated to the portraits that followed. I could feel their happiness and love as I watched them through my camera, an incredible privilege and something I never take for granted as a wedding photographer.
Something I love about weddings at Toronto City Hall, and something that isn’t often talked about, is how there is a limit to the number of people that can attend the actual ceremony. Due to the small space and limited numbers, the ceremony always feel intimate and private, the energy and emotion is felt by everyone and it’s impossible not to be present in the moment since both the bride and groom’s family and friends are within touching distance throughout the entire experience. The ceremony was simple but extraordinarily beautiful at its core. A mixture of humour, laughs and tears, Dana and Marc exchanged meaningful vows before sharing in their first kiss as husband and wife.
Another key benefit of having their Toronto City Hall wedding in the late Spring was the fact that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom at Osgoode Hall where they opted to capture some beautiful and intimate portraits following the wedding ceremony. Who knew that you didn’t have to fight off crowds at High Park to appreciate mother nature’s transformation and make the most of them for your wedding day photos! Once again, Osgoode Hall is a place I'm quite familiar with, but the subtle changes over the course of the year, and the people in front of the camera made me feel like it was a completely new space to work with altogether. The combination of nature and old architecture aren't something common within Toronto's downtown core, but Osgoode Hall gave us the diverse landscape to help tell Dana and Marc's wedding day story in a natural and stunning location that few wedding venues in Toronto could ever provide.
This wedding was memorable for many reasons, but something I absolutely loved was the editorial vibe and route that Dana took with her bridal fashion and look. Ditching the idea of a traditional wedding dress and opting for a white jumpsuit, Dana had the glow and essence of all things editorial and fashion, straight out of an Aritzia fashion ad. The contrast between her wedding jumpsuit and the vibrant florals around Osgoode Hall create an epitome of perfection to capture, combined with Marc’s ability to naturally express his connection to his bride, I was presented with every opportunity to create timeless and cinematic imagery that wasn’t forced or staged.
Weddings at Toronto City Hall aren’t boring or typical, far from it, and this wedding day was all the evidence I could ever need to disprove that misconception.
Song of the Day
Tuesday Feeling (Choose To Stay) - Blood Orange
2019 has been a whirlwind so far, but when I step back and take in all the weddings I’ve been privileged to photograph, I realize how amazing it’s been to be part of some exclusive and ultimately, intimate moments between two people and their closest friends and family.
Maria and Scott crossed paths with me thanks to a humbling referral from Mary & Pascal, an incredible couple I photographed last year on Toronto Island. I love working with friends of former brides and grooms because it creates an initial trust and familiarity that isn’t easily achieved in normal circumstances. I was able to walk into the wedding day as if I was photographing old friends which helped us achieve natural and candid moments to manifest before my eyes without hesitation or discomfort. I never take for granted how important that sort of connection is to the brides and grooms I work with, it’s a key element in my photography and process, so to be able to create this sort of parallel with Maria and Scott was truly special as it allowed me the confidence to capture them with the editorial and photojournalistic eye that I naturally bring to the table as a photographer.
I was excited to be included in their private and intimate wedding at One King West Hotel in downtown Toronto. It’s one of the few authentic / best wedding venues and locations in Toronto (especially downtown). With their classic and old architecture intact, including an underground bank vault that we used for family photos and portraits, it gave us an incredible atmosphere to capture Maria & Scott’s life milestone. The large windows and old wooden details created a beautiful and natural mood that we took complete advantage of, and their wedding ceremony was done in a private room on the rooftop of One King West Hotel, providing a breathtaking view of the Toronto skyline as the bride and groom exchange their vows in front of their immediate families. This sort of intimate and private setting really allowed everyone to be 100% present in the moment, often being overcome with emotions, there was really no fear in anyone expressing themselves because they were surrounded by trusted loved ones and everyone shared in on the experience of the wedding day.
Although it was a windy Spring day, the bride and groom took the time to embrace and appreciate the views from the One King West rooftop after they officially became husband and wife. There was both a sense of relief and excitement in their eyes as they stared off into the distant Toronto skyline, holding one another close to stay warm in each other’s embrace. Those little fleeting in-between moments, the quiet moments between the two of them that really stuck with me.
It was a beautiful experience and reminder to me as a wedding photographer that all weddings and elopements, big or small, have natural and striking human connections and emotions that are the real things worth capturing and those to me, are the essential components of a wedding day worth capturing and it’s no surprise that those are the moments that engrain into my mind’s eye.
Song of the Day
Good For You - Blood Orange
Now that the summer is here, one of my favourite parts of being a wedding photographer is actually all the engagement and lifestyle shoots I get to do throughout the wedding season, and this at-home session in the St.Lawrence market is one I’ve been looking forward to since last fall.
The low-pressure atmosphere and hangout vibe of at-home sessions always seem to bring out a side of people that is both surprising and ultimately revealing of their truer selves, especially within the realms and nuances of the personal dynamic between the two individuals.
When Steph and Julie suggested we hangout at their downtown Toronto apartment, followed by a stroll through the St.Lawrence market neighbourhood, I was fully onboard since my previous experiences with in-home engagement sessions had been absolutely incredible. So to make things a bit more interesting, I decided to leave the digital camera gear at home and use my 35mm film cameras and 120 medium format analog cameras for this session to keep myself present in the moment and capture the vision I had in my head without the distractions of immediacy, and it truly paid off.
There’s something compelling and nostalgic of seeing the small details that comprises someone’s home; whether it be a glass of water on the nightstand, a stack of worn-out books, memorabilia (like Harry Potter stuff, which I can’t seem to escape), but most interestingly of all (to me at least), the hanging photos and artwork on the walls. All the little things that add up to reveal elements of someone’s personality right in front of me, providing time capsules and insights into their very beings, allowing me to connect with them profoundly without exchanging a single word. Steph and Julie’s apartment was quaint and familiar, lived in and a real home with many if not all of the things I just described, a perfect setting to capture them as one.
During my days as a photojournalist I used to love assignments that revolved around photographing people in their homes and neighbourhoods. The familiarity of space brings an unmatched comfort where people feel safe within their vulnerability as they are being photographed. Although I knew Steph previously from various commercial sets I worked on as a production stills photographer, walking through the St.Lawrence market with her and her future wife provided me a new perspective on their life and the history of their relationship. As we walked they pointed out various cornerstone locations around St.Lawrence market including their favourite coffee shop around the corner, Balzacs Coffee, and their “favourite” spaghetti restaurant where they had their first real date.
It was astounding to see how much of Julie and Steph’s story involves only a 2 to 3 block radius within downtown Toronto. I think everyone can relate to the incredible nostalgia that we feel when we think about days gone of spending time in our own neighbourhood, walking the blocks and reminiscing about memories buried deep within. What was incredible was seeing that through someone else’s experience as it was still in progress. Regardless of the occasional clenched fist, these two walked through the evening hand-in-hand.
The entire experience of exploring Steph & Julie’s worlds made me incredibly excited for their upcoming wedding at the Gladstone hotel and I’m grateful that they both welcomed me into their lives so candidly and freely.
I didn’t plan to release this blog post on the same day as Pride 2019, but this is one of those rare happy coincidences, and I’m fortunate enough to have a platform to champion my friends, families and allies in the community by showing true love between two human beings, and that indeed Love is Love.
Song of the Day
I Shatter - Tomemitsu
Bonus Track of the Day
Roses - Girlpool
St. Lawrence Market is a staple of downtown Toronto. I never had the opportunity to photograph a wedding there, so when the Sara-Christine and Kevin mentioned they’d be hosting an intimate and small wedding at the St.Lawrence Market Kitchen, I was excited for all the possibilities that came along with that for their wedding photography.
The bride and groom crossed paths with me and my photography on a generous recommendation from former colleagues of mine from my days as a photojournalist here in Toronto. Sara-Christine being a journalist herself, I felt a good sort of pressure to tackle this wedding day like a photojournalistic or documentary assignment, so that the images can have an air of authenticity that truly represents the bride and groom’s relationship and their individual personalities. I will admit however, that they made my task very easy, letting go of their reservations and truly trusting my presence, allowing themselves to interact with one another naturally and embracing the fleeting moments throughout the wedding day. I know the term documentary wedding photographer and photojournalistic wedding photography are often used as buzz-words in the wedding photography industry, but this time around, I sincerely felt my approach called for that photojournalism mentality.
Being in an old and historic building, St.Lawrence market provides a beautiful setting for weddings. The bride and groom opted for a casual family style dinner with some incredible food options, including liquid nitrogen popcorn (seriously, you read that right, liquid nitrogen popcorn), and with St.Lawrence Market shutting down for the evening, we had the entire place to ourselves. Their friends and family travelled from all over Canada, the U.S. and beyond to witness their intimate wedding and to experience some incredible food and lasting memories.
The entire wedding was held in the upstairs in the St.Lawrence Market Kitchen, which provides a beautiful and modern open concept space that was perfect for the family style dinner they had planned for the evening. The ceremony took place in front of beautiful floor to ceiling windows and with a breathtaking view of the Toronto skyline, the sun began to set as the bride and groom exchanged vows, rings and shared their first kiss as husband and wife. The ceremony was highly sentimental as the bride and groom read their personally written vows to one another, infusing their personalities into the wedding ceremony in the most beautiful of ways.
Being in such a vibrant part of downtown Toronto led us to exploring a few alleyways and making the most of the authentic old Toronto architecture for their portraits. The vibe of the entire day was relaxed and laid back, full of great conversations and stories about the well-travelled bride and groom. Weddings in the city can in fact be intimate, the urban jungle isn’t always overwhelmingly chaotic as we’re made out believe, yes, even in downtown Toronto of all places.
After getting to know Sara-Christine and Kevin, it was without question that the choice of St.Lawrence market for their intimate wedding, was absolutely perfect. They’ve both travelled all-over the world and are extremely well cultured, so naturally hosting their wedding in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and in one of the most eclectic and culturally rich market places in Toronto, it all made so much sense to me, and it was authentically them through and through.
Few places in Toronto are like the St.Lawrence market, and even fewer wedding venues come close to the authentic and intimate atmosphere the St. Lawrence market provides.
I couldn’t feel any luckier to have been part of the select few people who got to experience Sara-Christine and Kevin’s love culminate to this current pinnacle. It was truly an unforgettable experience for me as a wedding photographer, and the memory of this experience will begin and end with the two fantastic people I had the pleasure of capturing and documenting.
Song of the Day
It’s Real - Real Estate
A wedding at Elora Mills in the spring is music to any Toronto based wedding photographer. The opportunity to leave the chaos of the city and enjoy some small-town charm is a welcome change, not to mention the town of Elora has incredible green spaces and outdoor photo locations that I was eager to explore with the bride and groom. For the first spring wedding of 2019, we lucked out and only got a bit of rain, but luckily, Elora Mill is full of character and charm of its own, so we had no shortage of great shooting locations.
The rustic charm of Elora Mill could be found in every corner of the grounds, including the spacious bedrooms where the Bride and Groom got ready before their first look surrounded by stone walls and old-time charm.
Chelsey and Justing wanted to take the opportunity to read their personal vows to each other in private, so that they could be openly express their emotions and love for one another with all focus being present in that very moment. We snuck down to a cave-like room where the bride and groom exchanged an emotional set of words as we could hear the rain slowly tapping on the windows. It was an incredibly beautiful moment, atmospheric and genuine. It was a kind reminder that it’s so important to take a few moments throughout the wedding day to actually share a sentimental moments with the person you love, because most of the day is incredibly fleeting you’ll thank yourself for absorbing a shared moment in time on the wedding day.
Elora, a quaint town that has so much character in addition to the stunning greenery and local landscapes, including the Elora Gorge, where the bride and groom opted for wedding photos, was unlike any place I’ve photographed for a wedding. The bride packed her trusty Blundstones and was equipped and ready for our short hike down to the gorge and waterfall. Adventures on your wedding day will always result in fantastic wedding photos, it’s almost a guarantee.
I was pretty excited to get such a breathtaking location (within Ontario!) to set the scene for some natural and beautiful portraits. On our hike down to the Elora Gorge, Justin was telling us about some childhood and teenage memories he had with his siblings playing in the water and by the waterfall, and how returning here for his wedding photos was incredibly surreal and amazing at the same time. I had no idea that the groom had this deep and authentic sentimental attachment to the location, which just added a new layer of depth to the images that can’t ever be seen or understood by anyone outside of their circle. The nostalgia added a new cinematic and moody element to the bride and groom portraits, as it was obvious through Chelsey and Justin’s interactions with one another, that this place really meant something to them and they felt like they could really be themselves in that moment.
The wedding ceremony was held at Elora Mill and was beautifully and elegantly staged with blooming florals and greenery, creating a romantic mood that balanced out the funny in-between moments between the bride and groom as they exchanged rings and their first kiss in front of their closest friends and family.
The wedding reception at Elora Mill had rustic and vintage vibes, incredible food, hilarious speeches (that included a guest appearance by Chelsey’s lifelong teddybear) and a painter, who was creating a dynamic and unique work of art influenced by the wedding day itself. Seeing the painter create this incredible custom artwork in that very moment was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed at a wedding before. The final piece is a portrait of the bride and groom dancing, surrounded by an abstract representation of Elora Mill and the reception space. It’s an unbelievably unique and creative element that Chelsey and Justin added to their wedding day, and they have a lifelong keepsake as a result.
A wedding at Elora Mill in the spring, sure it might rain, but if you’re anything like Chelsey and Justin, you’ll make the most of it and live through an incredible wedding day experience.
Song of the Day
Golden Haze - Wild Nothing
Some of my favourite experiences as a Toronto wedding photographer has been to photograph the various elopements I’ve been lucky to be a part of over the past few years.
I’ve been part of some extremely memorable city hall elopements at Toronto City Hall, including a surprise elopement , a sunrise elopement, a sunset elopement and a beautiful fall elopement to name a few of my all-time favourites.
What’s incredibly special about eloping in Toronto is that you can truly have an intimate and unique elopement since the city is so culturally rich and beautiful in many different ways.
Denisa and Adam opted for a fall elopement at Toronto City Hall, but not before spending some time together exploring the beauty around Queen Street and Riverdale Park. The surrounding neighbourhoods have some of the most character-rich and authentically Toronto locations. Combined with the being surrounded by nature at the absolute peak time of the metamorphosis of colours, Denisa and Adam’s elopement was sincerely beautiful and naturally them.
The bride’s modern yet untraditional wedding dress mimicked art as it flowed through the red leaves and those slowly turning brown as we walked through the Riverdale neighbourhood, strolling through alleys, taking in the sunset at the park and finally stopping for some coffee in a nearby Art Gallery. At times, the bride and groom reminded me of the Bob Dylan album cover for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Similar to that album art, Denisa and Adam seemingly had an entire city to themselves, strolling through the streets while enjoying the in-between moments they shared with one another. My only job was to be there and capture them as they were in that moment in time and to experience the atmosphere of our surroundings in hopes of materializing them in my images.
As the sun set we made our way over to Toronto City Hall where they officially eloped in front of their immediate families. The ceremony had a sense of calmness to it, and the handful of people present, myself included, could really feel the energy between the two high school sweethearts. As the officiant pronounced them husband and wife for the first time, Denisa and Adam, overwhelmed with emotion, hugged one another in a moment that seemed to freeze in time.
I really learned something through my experience of photographing Denisa & Adam’s City Hall elopement ; It really doesn’t matter if a wedding or elopement is happening in a familiar place, it’s truly the people who are part of the experience that shape the atmosphere and environment. Although the experience of shooting wedding photos at City Hall isn’t new to me, working with Denisa & Adam was new to me, and they really allowed me to see my very own neighbourhood and Toronto city hall in new ways through new experiences with different people.
Album of the Day
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan - Bob Dylan
A winter wedding in one of Liberty Village’s best restaurants / bars? Yup.
Mike and Amanda’s wedding at the Craft Brasserie & Grille was one of my absolute favourite winter weddings to date. It was very cool to be a part of the first wedding ever hosted at the Craft. The Toronto neighbourhood of Liberty Village offers so much variety for photographs and wedding options that I was beyond excited to have this wedding on the books so early on in the year.
I was fortune enough to cross paths with the bride and groom after I photographed Caitlin and Jon’s wedding (insert link to their blog post, and within a few months of their February wedding in Liberty Village, we met up at the Craft to have a variety of craft beers and check out the space before it was transformed for their winter wedding.
There was so much to love about the entire wedding day, including the weather. Although we’ve been treated with a cold winter this year, Mike and Amanda got one of their milder days which gave us so much flexibility for the photos.
Liberty Village has that old Toronto charm in various alleys and back streets, so naturally we took advantage of the vintage aesthetic for their first look, the bridal party photos and their portraits. The beautiful red bricks of the old buildings really contrasted with the white and grey that the winter provided.
The first look was set in the middle of Liberty Village and it felt like we had the entire area to ourselves and we sort if did. I vividly remember their first look and how excited Amanda was and how she was unable to contain her happiness and curiosity, peeking around the corner to see her soon to be husband standing in the middle of the street. It was a cute, genuine and inspiring moment where their love revealed itself in a subtle form.
Amanda looked incredible in her minimal and subtle modern bridal look, sheer elegance with a bit of flair thanks to a beautiful shawl. The entire aesthetic and vibe of the wedding was 100% Mike and Amanda : low-key fun with a bit of quirkiness. I mean, if you’re getting married in a restaurant that serves with 120 craft beers on tap, you probably appreciate good times in a good atmosphere with your closest friends and family, and that’s exactly what this wedding was.
Of course, we took advantage of the beautiful space and MASSIVE keg room for some unique and off-the-cuff portraits, I actually think it was colder in the keg fridge than it was outside, but the bride and groom didn’t flinch, probably thanks to a few of those craft beers keeping the blood warm. I never expected to get a romantic vibe from a keg room / beer fridge, but Mike and Amanda took the time to get away from their friends and family to enjoy a second together, alone, and take in the quiet moment as they the feelings of their entire wedding day washed over them.
With the sun setting early, the mood quickly turned to a lively vibe where guests were mingling, dancing, and tasting all 120 craft beers available to them as they chowed down on some incredible BBQ dinner. The night was filled was laughs, and no bigger laugh came then the moment the bride attempted to pour a pint of beer for herself and her groom, only to quickly fill the glass with head and spilling the excess beer on her wedding dress! It was a hilarious moment that I’m sure none of us will forget.
It was a beautiful day, and although I hate the cold, it was without a doubt worth standing outside to witness the natural and candid moments unfold between these two incredibly genuine people on their wedding day.
A winter wedding in Liberty Village Toronto, done right.
Song of the Day
Sanctuary - Ruby Haunt